Cody Johnson’s 2021 Human: The Double Album was an exercise in maximalism, a sprawling project that showed the true breadth of the Texas country artist’s prodigious talents. With his eighth LP, Johnson narrows his focus, and in doing so makes his biggest statement yet. That focus feels hard-earned for Johnson, who tells Apple Music that he’s reached a point in his career where he feels like he can finally kick back and enjoy some of the fruits of his nearly two-decade career. “I'm 36—I'm not old, but I'm not young either,” he tells Apple Music. “And I see a trend of ‘I need to get a hit. I need to get a record deal right now so I can get a hit, so I can get the stadium [show], so I can get the money, so I can get a No. 1 video, so I can get the fame.’ And I'm like, ‘I genuinely care about country music. I care about where we've come from and I care about where we're going.’ And that means more to me than dollar signs and fame, because if I do my job good enough, the dollar signs and fame and all that stuff just goes along with it.” Leather opens with “Work Boots,” a sweet and playful tune with clever lyrics—the titular boots pull double duty as dancing shoes—and an easy, laidback groove. “That’s Texas” is a two-stepper’s delight, with Johnson leaning hard into the twangier side of his musical roots, as well as into winkingly controversial opinions like “ain’t no such thing as chili with beans.” Jelly Roll joins Johnson on “Whiskey Bent,” a vulnerable track about making up for alcohol-fueled mistakes. And Johnson closes the LP with the emotional “Make Me a Mop,” a spare, prayer-like plea for meaning and purpose. Johnson shares insight into several key tracks below. “That’s Texas” “For the first 10 years of my career in this town in Nashville, it was, ‘Oh, you're just Texas country. You're the cowboy from Texas.’ And I got wrote off because I'm just Texas. Well, now I'm at a point where we're doing pretty well for ourselves and I thought, ‘You know what? By God, I'm going to record a Texas song and include George Strait and Robert Earl Keen and The Rockin' CJB.’ That's my band. Let me tell you how goofy this was. I took a snuff can out, an empty snuff can, and held it up in the microphone and did the percussion on it. We were just in there goofing off, and everybody’s so crazy about it.” “Dirt Cheap” “I love that song. I relate to that song so much. Literally on the ranch at home, I have the tree picked out where I want to be buried. I'm not impressed by money and fame and glitter. So whenever I'm old and somebody comes along and says, ‘Hey, we want to pay you to build a subdivision here,’ I don't really care what the check amount is. You're not putting a subdivision on my land. I want to keep it pure. And hopefully we're just going to keep adding more to it. That's what we've discussed, is that we're going to grow this thing as big as we can possibly get it. And who knows: God's got a plan, I don't. But for right now at 36, I had related to ‘Dirt Cheap’ because I would like to stay there. My wife's like, ‘The house is two stories. What about when we get old?’ I was like, ‘We're putting in an elevator.’” “Whiskey Bent” (feat. Jelly Roll) “I sent him ‘Whiskey Bent’ and he said, ‘Hey, man, I'm laying in bed with my wife right now and we are both bawling.’ And I'm like, ‘Well, bro, if you feel that on that song, then that's the one you need to sing with me on.’ So, organically again, that's how it happened.” “Leather” “The day that Ian Munsick played me ‘Leather,’ we were just sitting on the bus getting to know each other, picking guitars and stuff, and he plays me the song and I'm like, ‘Dude, I will cut that in a heartbeat.’ I was like, ‘That would be such a cool album title. Cody Johnson: Leather.’ And he's like, ‘I didn't even know you were cutting an album.’ I was like, ‘I'm not. I don't think. Maybe I am. But if you'll give me the song, I'll cut a record around it.’ And it just happened.” “Make Me a Mop” “I'm sitting here thinking, where are we going with this? And [the songwriters] started playing it and I couldn't control the tears. I just couldn't control the tears. And they just kept pouring. And I felt a quivering in my chest. And it was almost like the first time that somebody goes to church and they really feel the Holy Spirit, when you really feel God touching you. And I felt that in this song. And I was like, ‘This is one of the most incredible songs I've ever heard. And I want to make it as simple as possible.’ So it's literally just me, my gut string guitar, my fiddle player, Jody [Bartula], put a little bit of piano on it, just a little soft pads. It leaves you so much space in the song to just close your eyes and open up your mind as to what this song is really. It's a prayer.”

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